Amidst everything that comes with a change in his coaching staff and early season injuries, Mexico varsity girls basketball coach Ed Costley was charged with the task of guiding his team through a 6 a.m. matchup on Sunday at the Norm Stewart Classic at Columbia College.
That meant not only did Costley, assistant coaches Kim Costley and Katie Scherder and the Lady Bulldogs have to get comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings, but they also had to try and stop California forwards Paige Lamm and Gracie George. Making matters worse for Mexico was a Lady Pintos backcourt that includes Elizabeth Lutz and Tristan Porter.
Despite all that adversity the Lady Bulldogs still came out and played a solid first quarter highlighted by seven points from Adria Costley before California pulled away to win 66-45.
"The shooting was a big difference in this game. In the first half we were 1-of-10 from the free throw line and 19-for-44 overall," said Ed Costley. "California is a really good shooting team. Those girls get out and spend a lot of time in the gym. You can tell by their three point shooting that's what they do. They fire the ball up and that's a different style than we're used to seeing. We've got to do a better job adjusting. We had opportunities. We were right there. We just couldn't get it finished on offense."
The subplot to this tale wasn't truly told until the fourth quarter when the teams combined to make 15 trips to the free throw line with Mexico going 10-for-20 and the Lady Pintos making 3-of-10. While none of those points came from Lutz, based on what she did for the game the 5-foot-6 California senior did win the Gary Filbert MVP award.
"This was a good opportunity for us to come out on a college floor. It's always good for kids to do that and play in an atmosphere that's a little bit different," Ed Costley said. "We wanted to be a part of this because when you talk about Gary Filbert and all he's done, he's been a big part of promoting the game of basketball in Missouri. This is also about raising money for Coaches vs. Cancer, this helps us undestand there are bigger things in the world. It's not always about just sports or just us."
This game began for the Lady Pintos with Lamm going 3-for-4 from the charity stripe, a pair of three-pointers by Porter and two free throws each by George and Makayla Schanzmeyer. The Lady Bulldogs shot back with a hoop from Taylor Sherrow to pull within 13-7 at 1:44 before a score by Shelbi Shaw made it a five-point affair heading into the second.
"I thought we handled the pressure well. We didn't have any problems there," said Ed Costley. "We just have to find ways to finish on the back end. Sometimes I think part of it is we have to find a way to get the ball into our shooters hands in rhythm and not settle for the outside shot. We're not three-point bombers like California is. They're really good from long range. We've got to understand if you don't have a good look, pass the ball."
Now trailing 34-19 to start the third, California left Mexico even further behind after a pair of three-pointers by Lutz. That led to the Lady Bulldogs taking the ball inside, and while Logan Blevins did chart 11 points for the session and Raigan Smith made both of her free throws, the Lady Pintos were still leading 47-33 at 1:47 prior to taking a 17-point advantage into the fourth.
"In the second half we tried to simplify what we were doing defensively. I thought we did really well playing man-to-man, but we've got to work on our angles on close outs," Ed Costley said. "I thought we did a better job attacking the boards. We got several offensive rebounds, which is something we talked about. There were some times we gave up some backside shots. We overthink sometimes. We just have to have confidence in ou dribbling skills and our ability to go to the basket strong."
For the game for Mexico, 0-2 overall, Adria Costley had 16 points, nine rebounds, four steals and three assists, Blevins scored 12 with 13 boards and Taylor Sherrrow charted four points, six rebounds and two assists.